Goldie Hicks is putting away her needles. The registered medical technologist is retiring Dec. 31 from the Terre Haute Med Lab which currently has a branch located at Dr. French's office.
Dr. French is associated with a group which has their own laboratory, Providence Lab. Starting in January, Providence will be doing the lab work for French's office.
Terre Haute Med Lab determined there would not be enough business to stay in Brazil. Goldie was asked to go with them to Terre Haute but she declined.
"I didn't really want to work in Terre Haute," she said. "I like the atmosphere in Clay County. It's more homey and down to earth. So I just decided to retire."
And after nearly 40 years of drawing blood and examining body fluids to help doctors diagnose and treat their patients, Goldie is laying down her needles for good.
The Purdue University graduate started her career doing clinical training at Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C. in 1960. Her husband, Jim, was in the Army stationed at Fort Meade in Maryland.
They came to Clay County in 1970 for Jim to take a job with Wayne Feeds. Goldie started working in the lab at Clay County Hospital in 1972. She has seen a lot of changes over the years.
"When I first started, back in school, we drew blood in glass syringes and used reusable needles and sterilized them," Goldie said. "We had an instrument that did BUNs, a kidney function test, and blood sugars.
"It took up the whole room. It was like the first computer. That was new technology in 1960. Now they have a little instrument about 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet that can do over 20 lab tests."
Goldie said that medical technologists used to have to make up their own anticoagulants and reagents, liquids used in testing body fluids.
"We had to weigh out the chemical and mix it with water or alcohol or whatever reagent we were using," Goldie explained. "Now we just buy all of them from a company already pre-mixed."
Test tubes used now are called vaccutainers. They have a vacuum in them. The negative pressure causes the blood to automatically flow into the tube. So the technologist does not have to use a syringe to pull the blood out.
"There's less of a problem with collapsing veins when using vaccutainer as opposed to a plunger," Goldie said. "The vaccutainer also has improved the quality of the blood specimen which gives more accurate test results."
One-use disposable needles, used today, are sharper than the reusable, frequently sterilized needles of the past. That makes it more comfortable and safer for the patient.
A lot more testing is done now than in 1960. With automation, the tech can push a button and get results to the doctor quickly.
Goldie said she can draw blood and have the results back to the doctor in 10 minutes in the office. That allows the doctor to diagnose and treat quicker which provides all-around better patient care.
Goldie took a few years off while she raised the couples' three children, Lisa, Bradley and Derric. Deciding to go back to work part time, she started at Regional Hospital Lab in 1976.
The following year she was offered a job in the lab at the Community Medical Clinic, the office of Drs. Conrad and Froderman. They later brought in Drs. McCardle and Nonweiler. And they added more chemistry tests and cultures.
Mary Warren, who had been the lab tech when there were just the two doctors, asked to move to the insurance department. The Clinic needed someone with the experience and training to do the increased, advanced workload. Goldie did the job for the next 26 years.
When asked if she could guess how many gallons of blood she'd drawn over the years, Goldie smiled her soft, thoughtful smile.
"How do you measure gallons from tubes?" she asked. "I've drawn quit a few gallons, though, because I used to draw blood for the Community Blood Bank. I drew a lot of pints, but tubes? I don't know."
Goldie said she has enjoyed most aspects of her profession. But not all.
"I've been called Dracula a million times," she explained. "I didn't care much for that. I felt like I was giving a service, not sucking blood.
"The most enjoyable part of my job has been the patients," Goldie continued. "I became friends with many of them.
"I've enjoyed the work. It's very precise and mentally challenging. A patient's life can depend on a test result. How a doctor treats a patient depends on the test results. So they have to be right."
Goldie has also enjoyed interacting with her fellow co-workers. Many, however, have moved on or retired. Some have transferred to the Terre Haute office.
"The only one here now who's been here longer than me is Phyllis Maurer. She started out as Dr. Nonweiler's nurse a few weeks before I came. I'll miss seeing her everyday."
Goldie doesn't have any immediate plans for her retirement. She said the decision came rather quickly because of the new lab being brought in.
She'll probably do more volunteer work. Maybe they'll travel. And she'd definitely like to spend more time with her two grandchildren. Their son Brad and his wife recently adopted an 18-month-old little boy.
"It's been a fulfilling job," Goldie said. "Most lab techs are not thought of when you think of patient care. But they are an important part of the health field. I've enjoyed it."